Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2136

Israel’s barbaric attack reveals its true nature

There are two military strategies that governments and armies use when fighting insurgency. One is often termed “hearts and minds”, while the other is known as collective punishment.

The Israeli government has always preferred collective punishment. This is what we have seen in Gaza on a horrific scale. A whole population is being murderously punished in an attempt to destroy support for the insurgents. This is what Hamas are – insurgents fighting against oppression and injustice.

Why do the Israelis favour this method? The answer is simple – they have no intention of ever making any concessions. Indeed, the Zionists were still encroaching on Palestinian land in the West Bank even as the bombs and missiles fell on Gaza.

When the Israelis say they want peace what they really mean is they want more land. They have made no attempt to bolster the position of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestine Authority, but have instead humiliated them at every opportunity.

Meanwhile our Labour government is offering to help police Gaza on Israel’s behalf – something that is being dressed up as being for the benefit of the Palestinians! It will, of course, have been cleared with Barack Obama’s people, because British governments don’t take initiatives without permission.

John Newsinger, Bath

It’s disgusting that the political establishment in Britain is four square behind Israel. We have Conservative Friends of Israel, Labour Friends of Israel, and even Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel groups.

Why would any politician want to be “friends” with a racist, aggressive apartheid state like Israel?

Karren McNally, Gateshead

Israel’s prolonged and barbaric bombardment of Gaza will rank alongside the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War as one of the most infamous episodes in modern world history.

Dave Taylor, Hampshire

Hazel Blears warns that the events in Gaza could radicalise British Muslims and create extremists. How does she think we should react to a state that has killed well over a thousand people?

What should we term Labour’s refusal to condemn Israel’s actions while simultaneously sending shipments of arms to Israel?

And what should we term this government’s role in dragging our country into two deeply unpopular, illegal and immoral wars that have left a million dead in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Mark Holt, Merseyside Stop the War Coalition

I don’t understand how the police can get away with such blatant violence against people protesting at Israel’s war on the Palestinians (» Massive London demonstration opposes Israel's Gaza attacks, 10 January).

There’s so much footage of their brutality, so why won’t the government act? Does Israel have so much influence on them that they’ve forgotten which country they’re supposed to be running?

Aliya, by email

Our media has been obsessed with President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech. Yet as the Palestinian people mourn those massacred by Israel, we must remember another speech made by Obama in June last year.

Speaking to the conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, Obama said that he “deeply understood the Zionist idea” and that “the establishment of Israel [in 1948] was just and necessary”.

Ignoring the internationally accepted basis for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Obama ruled out the idea of East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, saying, “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”

Finally Obama pledged, “I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security. That starts with ensuring Israel’s qualitative military advantage.”

The people of Gaza know what that “qualitative military advantage” means. They know, too, that Obama’s speech signalled to the Israelis that his presidency would mean business as usual as far as the oppression of Palestinians is concerned.

Mark Brown, Glasgow

In the past week several thousand pounds has been collected for medical aid to the Palestinians by trade unionists in Haringey, north London. This includes £700 in street donations in Muswell Hill, £800 from lecturers at the College of North East London and £400 raised by teachers and pupils at Gladesmore school.

We also collected £400 at a public meeting on Gaza in Tottenham. The meeting was packed with local councillors, trade unionists and other activists. But the majority were ordinary Haringey people determined to show their support for the people of Gaza, both physically and financially.

Keith Flett, Chair, Haringey TUC

Lambeth lessons for teachers

The failure of our NUT union to call strike action over pay last year has not demoralised teachers in Lambeth. Instead, we have decided to keep addressing the big political issues.

First, we invited childrens’ author Alan Gibbons to address a packed union-organised event which centred on boys and reading.

Alan explained how the government’s testing agenda has created a crisis in learning.

He pointed out that the joy of reading for pleasure has been stolen from children. Instead books are treated as excerpts for children to revise in order to achieve higher national curriculum levels.

Second, as workload continues to be a major cause of teacher stress, we called a union meeting for early years teachers to create a list of demands to put to the local education authority.

It was the best attended meeting we’ve had for over ten years.

Finally, there is massive anger among teachers over Israel’s attacks on the Palestinians.

We chose to discuss this issue at a recent union meeting. We voted unanimously to pass a motion condemning Israel’s actions and supporting the demonstrations against the attack.

We are now organising collections in schools for the TUC’s Gaza fund.

Jess Edwards, South London

French lessons for Brown

In response to rapidly rising unemployment, Gordon Brown’s skills secretary John Denham has announced plans for government‑backed internships at firms like Barclays and Microsoft.

Interns will receive wages little higher than a student grant, and for no longer than three months.

Does he think that former staff at Woolworths, Nissan or JCB would have benefited from three months experience making the tea? Denham has to accept that employers are sacking people, despite their skills and experience.

There is more than enough work to be done in our society – building the infrastructure to deal with climate change, for example – for new jobs to be created for everyone.

But instead of creating jobs, the government is making it possible for employers to hire recent graduates as cheap labour.

The French government took a similar approach to youth unemployment with their CPE reforms in 2005. In response, the university in my town was occupied for two weeks.

The protests against the CPE electrified France, leaving the right wing government incapable of launching any further attacks. If Gordon Brown thinks he can use graduates as a battering ram against us, he will need to be taught the same lessons.

Dave Sewell, Manchester University

Article was a return to form

The very readable centre pages on the roots of the Israel/Palestine conflict (» Questions and answers on a conflict made by the West, 10 January) mentions a memorial to Iraqis who died fighting the British in the 1920s.

Could you tell me where this memorial is?

Can I also say that for me, this kind of simple question and answer treatment of key issues signalled a return to form for Socialist Worker.

Martin Webber, by email

Obituary made me proud

I have just come across your obituary of Dunkan Tickner, who died in 2006 (» Obituary, 30 September 2006).

I am his father and was unaware of his death until I chanced upon it while browsing the web.

I have lived in Australia for the past 20 years and lost touch with Dunkan many years ago. In fact, I had not seen him since the mid-1980s after his return from the fiasco of the Falklands War.

Although saddened by the news, I read with great pride about his activities for the socialist cause.

I know his late grandmother, a Scottish nationalist, and his uncles, Adrian and Arthur, both good socialists, would also have been proud of him.

Max Tickner, by email

Probation can help offenders

Charles Hanson criticises probation officers, saying they are against offenders (» Letters, 10 January).

I agree that at times our role can be contradictory. However part of our role is also to help people to rehabilitate themselves.

This could involve helping people to access housing, or to obtain drug or alcohol counselling.

Yes, I have recalled people back to prison. However, I can say honestly that the reasons have never been trivial. Recall is a last resort and generally reserved for people who have shown their risk of harm to others has increased.

Would Charles rather we let people walk the streets to commit further offences?

Name and address withheld

Busting the Celtic myths

Siân Ruddick’s excellent series on radical Wales gives us a real taste of the workers’ struggles that exploded in this cauldron of emerging capitalism.

It rescues Welsh history from the “Celtic mists” of nationalistic mythology.

I would wish to include, however, an assessment of the Great Unrest of 1910-14, and the Llanelli railway strike and riots of 1911.

These were part of the first ever national railway strike and involved mass picketing – not only by rail workers, but by whole communities.

Magistrates who called in the troops against the strike were attacked, and the railway trucks set on fire.

Tim Evans, Swansea

Show me a true socialist state

I appreciate many of your criticisms of capitalism, particularly its homophobia and racism.

But I was wondering if you could give me an example of a true socialist state where there is equality for all.

After all, none of the “socialist” countries – including Cuba, the Soviet Union, and North Korea – really improved the lot of the workers.

James, Maidenhead

Is cheque still in the post?

So Lord Mandelson is preparing to privatise Royal Mail. Everyone I know thinks this will be a disaster for the public and workers alike.

But where is the howl of rage from the trade union movement? Why hasn’t the postal workers’ union organised a walkout?

Could it be that the union is just too close to the party it funds?

Rohan Nakkady, West London

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Article information

Tue 27 Jan 2009, 18:47 GMT
Issue No. 2136
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